NPR’s Talk of the Nation conversation today on Gerald Ford’s life and presidency brought Watergate and its aftermath to mind. Though I hated Nixon as much as the next left-wing hippie student radical, looking back on him one notices that on domestic policy he was extremely moderate (even liberal) compared to the gang that came in when Ronald Regan defeated Ford for the Republican nomination. 

A fact that has received only minor notice among the eulogies (he appears to have been a quite decent person) is that Gerald Ford was a member of the Warren Commission on the assignation of JFK.  For those who believe that commission engineered a cover up (which I personally think unlikely), Ford’s having been “in on the secret” was a powerful factor in his selection as Vice President when Spiro Agnew resigned. See

To my mind, Ford’s presidency, and the right-wing Republican opposition to him, was the opening battle in war between two factions of the American elite. This story was first told by Carl Oglesby in his extraordinarily prescient 1976 book, The Yankee and Cowboy War, which described the coming power struggle between the old-money Eastern Establishment ruling class and the upstart the new-money oil/real-estate/aerospace ruling class of the South and West. The book was mostly about an interpretation of Dallas and Watergate that saw the old-money Republicans helping to reveal the truth about Watergate to bring the first president loyal to the up-start faction down.

I tend to be a disbeliever in conspiracies on the pragmatic grounds that anyone who has ever worked in a large organization knows how hard it is to keep people focused on an overt mission. In any event, The Yankee Cowboy War happened, the Cowboys won, and the scion of the relatively old-money Bush family needed to move to Texas and pretend to be a Cowboy if he were to have a chance of succeeding his father.

So two cheers for Gerald Ford: one for going to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and calling for an amnesty for draft-dodges, and a second for doing what he could to fight off the Cowboys, even if hhe had to pardon Nixon to try to placate them.

If you look at one of the Murphy’s Law compilations on the Web there is a good chance it will include entries called Ginsberg’s Theorem and Freeman’s Commentary on Ginsberg’s Theorem.

Ginsberg Theorem states that the three laws of thermodynamics can be restated as:

1. You can’t win. (conservation of mass/energy)
2. You can’t break even. (entropy increases)
3. You can’t get out of the game. (impossibility of reaching absolute zero)

Freeman’s Commentary on Ginsberg’s Theorem states that “Every major philosophy that attempts to make life seem meaningful is based on the negation of one part of Ginsberg’s Theorem.”

1. Capitalism is based on the assumption that you can win.
2. Socialism is based on the assumption that you can break even.
3. Mysticism is based on the assumption that you can quit the game.

(If you do a web search on +freeman+theorem I suggest including -penguin unless you are really interested in what people think of Morgan Freeman’s voice-over narrative on March of the Penguins.)

Though I’m unsure of who wrote Ginsberg’s Theorem, I happen to know quite a bit about how Freeman’s Commentary came to be. In the mid 1970’s I was working at the Nasa Ames Research Center in Mountain View CA as what today would be called a Systems Administrator for the ILLIAC-IV project, one of the first few sites on the ARPAnet. Somewhere on the net I found a collection of “laws,” which included Murphy’s Law, Ginsberg’s Theorem, and many others.

Arthur Bloch, who I knew from UC Santa Cruz, included some of these laws, as well as many new ones, in his 1974 book, Murphy’s Law and Other Reasons Things Go Wrong (The original material from his book is present in many of the compilations on the Web.) Freeman’s Commentary first appeared in this book. As far as I can recall, it was something I said in a conversation with Arthur. Thirty years later, it seems like a good name for my blog.